Thunder fans have kind of been waiting for a night off. Pretty much every game Oklahoma City has played this season has been one where you’re gnawing manically on your fingernails in the fourth quarter.
But even in a dominant 106-77 win over the Cavaliers Sunday, it was unwise to take your eyes off the action for a second. So even when the Thunder gives their fans’ hearts a night off, they don’t really give them the night off.
It was a night full of highlights. Dunks. BIG dunks. Great passes. Buzzer-beating 3-pointers. Defense. Halfcourt shots by fans for $20,000.
The Thunder led the Cavaliers by 30 going into the fourth quarter and never really let off the gas, but there was a buzz in the building for pretty much the entire 48. It was because the Thunder just played fun tonight. They looked a lot like the team everyone was madly in love with last season. Russell Westbrook was dynamite distributing and attacking. Kevin Durant was completely in his old rhythm, dunking, shooting and scoring everywhere. Jeff Green and James Harden were aggressive, adding a bunch of extra scoring.
Oklahoma City played its best 48 full minutes of the season against the Cavs. It’s something Thunder fans have been absolutely craving. After the Cavs cut into OKC’s big first half lead right before halftime, the Thunder came out and outscored Cleveland 30-13 in the third. Everything was good tonight. Seriously, when I say “everything was good,” I mean it.
Really, the only negative I saw was that the game was so out of hand in the fourth that Kevin Durant sat for the entire 12 minutes. KD was having a nice scoring night and really looked well on his way to a 40-point explosion after a 14-point first quarter. But because of the lopsided score, Durant only saw 30 minutes (still finished with 25 points though). I was actually kind of rooting for a mild comeback so at least KD could get some more minutes. I’m kidding. Kind of.
- I’m telling you, KD just looks like himself again. I think he’s warming up for his two month rampage that’s sure to be coming. He had 25 on 10-17 shooting (2-4 from 3), was a +26, grabbed seven rebounds and had that Durantula swagger and confidence back. I continue to be in love.
- This really was just a highlight fest for the Thunder. I can’t even count them up. There’s about 50 things that I’d love to point out from this game.
- Jeff Green, quietly excellent. 19 points with 15 coming in the first half.
- Nick Collison had eight rebounds and was a +32 tonight. Yowza.
- I’m a fan of KD’s pull-up 3. It’s not the highest percentage shot or always the best one, but most times it’s probably the best look he’s going to get in a possession. When it’s natural, in rhythm and not forced, I’m totally down with it.
- Westbrook is moving up the ranks in “point guards that throw the lob really well.” He puts them exactly where they need to be, even when there doesn’t appear to be a shot at one. Westbrook to Ibaka on a lob is something I go to sleep every night thinking about.
- James Harden is coming around completely. He’s just beaming confidence. His flush over J.J. Hickson was something I’ve been dying to see. But it didn’t end there. He made quick decisions all night instead of thinking over everything. If Harden starts playing like this consistently, he’s going to be that extra option that will make OKC really, really tough.
- Seeing Byron Mullens on the court with seven minutes left in the game is a beautiful thing, if you know what I mean.
- Russell Westbrook busted out the rip move tonight. Worked too, as he got Manny Harris to reach in on a 3-pointer.
- Eric Maynor is so money at the buzzer. He hit 3 at the buzzer to end the third quarter from DEEP.
- The question of the night: Who’s poster was better: Harden’s over Hickson or Westbrook’s over Battier?
- The Cavs closed first half well. They cut OKC’s lead in half from 22 to 11. I figured it was another here-we-go-again thing. Instead, the Thunder completely put the game away. Which was nice.
- This was the largest home win ever for the Thunder. The previous one was Nov. 11 last season over the Magic with a margin of 28 points.
- Westbrook’s passing in the first quarter was just stellar. Two no-look dishes and five assists in the quarter. He finished with 11 total, but the five in the first were pretty excellent.
- Jawad Williams is not a great professional basketball player. Three airballs, a bad brick, a couple unforced errors and bad defense.
- Ryan Hollins entered the game in the third quarter and immediately tried to mix it up with KD. It was a pretty weak effort to spark his team.
- I guess 16 offensive rebounds for Cleveland might be a bad thing, but the fact the Cavs shot 33.8 percent meant they had a lot of chances. And the overall edge was just 45-44 in favor of the Cavs.
- I was listening to the Thunder pregame show on the way to the arena and props to Craig Humphries. He was tossing out a number of advanced stats before the game like PER, defensive rating, true shooting percentage and pace. I was impressed. He’s really one of the only local media that I’ve heard use any advanced stats.
This is the start of a four-game homestand for the Thunder, and really the chance to get out on a little streak. A good start too. Granted, the Cavs aren’t great. I said in the pregame post that they’d quit if you gave them the chance. And they did. But OKC played a full 48 minutes of basketball and looked good throughout. The Thunder’s defense and offense is starting to come together. This is 12 of 16 for OKC and three straight. We know this team has gotten good at winning ugly. But this was a pretty victory, and a sight for sore eyes indeed.
Next up: The Rockets at home Wednesday.